History Is Alive:Revere Sends Record Number of Middle Schoolers to National History Fair

By Seth Daniel

Just a few years ago, Revere students at the State History Fair were a rare find, but this year Revere middle school students from the Susan B. Anthony Middle School (SBA) came in large numbers – and now they’re headed to Washington, D.C.

Only a handful of students from Revere schools have ever made it to the national History Fair – with the first being John Dello Russo more than five years ago. This year, 12 Revere students will present three projects this coming June 12-16 in the nation’s capital and in College Park, MD. They got there by prevailing in the school site contest, then at regionals in Beverly and finally at the state contest in Bedford.

“We are the city that has the most kids going from Massachusetts at the junior level,” said History teacher Tina Petty. “When we do something, we really do it all the way. These students really took it and ran with it. They did tons of extra work to make this projects. I try to get projects that kids are excited about. For me, it’s about helping them find something they are excited about and then helping them to present that research.”

The three teams include:

  • Exploring the Roles of First Ladies through U.S. History – Marisol Palencia, Kathy Umanzor, Astrid Umanzor, Eve Lescovitz, and Brenda Bettoro.
  • Annie Oakley: Libel and Feminism – Angel Ahmed, Ericka Cheever and Angelice Leng.
  • Martha Grimm: the Mother of Modern Dance – Jackeline Lemus, Chindara Detillio, Nicole Bagley and Sydney Ciano.

The first project includes a complete script and play performed by the five students – each acting as a First Lady, including Betty Ford, Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dolly Madison, and Jacqueline Kennedy.

“Our scenario is a tea party because Dolly Madison hosted a lot of public events,” said Astrid Umanzor.

“The story is in a hypothetical world,” said Kathy Umanzor. “They discuss what they did and how they made an impact.”

Palencia said their team actually finished third at state, just out of the money to get the ticket to Washington, D.C. However, the other team could not make the trip, giving an opening for the First Ladies.

“We thought First Ladies were very underestimated in all their eras,” said Palencia. “We wanted to see how that existed throughout U.S. History.”

  • For the Annie Oakley project, which is presented on traditional poster board, the trio had been wanting to report on something regarding women in medicine. However, finding roadblocks there, Cheever – who routinely shoots guns for sport – suggested they look into a sport that women aren’t typically associated with, such as hunting and shooting. That, of course, brought them to Annie Oakley.

“We focused on how she was libeled because many people didn’t think she should be doing what she was doing,” said Ahmed. “William Randolph Hearst published an article saying she had stole a pair of men’s trousers in order to buy cocaine. She was a very popular sharpshooter and it ruined her reputation. She fought the newspaper company and sued them and won. They printed a retraction, but put it all the way in the back.”

Cheever said they also explored how Oakley promoted early feminism through teaching other women how to shoot.

“In Europe and America women were seen as domestics who were to do what their husbands say and that was it,” she said. “Because she was able to take on a man’s sport, that made her more vulnerable.”

Added Ahmed, “We were able to make connections where she was able to teach women to shoot guns and be an activist and even thought women should fight in the military.”

The girls said they spend a great deal of time and money on the project.

“It wasn’t even the extra time, but really the money too,” said Cheever. “We spent more than $300 on this project. We got together and worked on it at least four hours a week.”

The project took first place in the Regionals and second place at states.

  • In the Documentary section, the four girls that focused on Martha Grimm won first place at the state competition in a very competitive category.

As a dancer with Nicole Zervas Dance Academy, Ciano had suggested her group look at early dance. Using iMovie, they created a documentary about Grimm.

“She was one of the first people to bring about a new style of dance,” said Ditillio. “In the early 1900s, it was only ballet and showgirls. She felt there should be dance where one’s true feelings and expressions were shown.”

Ciano said not many projects focus on the history of the arts, so that gave them an edge.

“It was about the arts and that’s not something a lot of people do,” she said. “I dance and this year I wanted to do something I like. We did the research and go more into it…The judges really liked who we chose and how we decided to present the information.”

Petty said there is still a lot of work to do in regards to fundraising. She said it costs $600 per student to get to the national fair. They have a goal of raising $10,000. In order to do that, the have set up a GoFundMe page online at www.gofundme.com/22czdnkz. For those who would like to donate by check, they can send a donation to the Susan B. Anthony Middle School with ‘History Fair’ in the memo.

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